If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice.
Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hundreds of thousands out of their sexual pickles. Nonetheless, her life story proves that one need not be tall to become mighty.
Mark St. Germain’s solo show “Becoming Dr. Ruth” has just opened GableStage’s 20th season at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. A touring production of the play featuring its Off-Broadway star visited the Parker Playhouse in 2014, and GableStage performer Anne O’Sullivan has played the role elsewhere, but this is director Joseph Adler’s fresh take on a remarkable woman’s life.
O’Sullivan is taller, slimmer and younger than the real Dr. Ruth, who will celebrate her 90th birthday in June (and who is expected at two GableStage performances this week). The actor’s speaking voice is different from Dr. Ruth’s instantly recognizable one, with its strong German accent, but O’Sullivan’s approximation works.
Over the course of the 95-minute play, set in 1997, Dr. Ruth is busily preparing to move from the three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights where she raised her children Miriam and Joel, became famous and shared 36 happy years with her third husband, Manfred Westheimer.
Her beloved “Fred” has just passed away, and the kids are worried about their mother’s abrupt decision to leave her longtime home behind. But Dr. Ruth is nothing if not strong-willed, and she’s certainly not too swamped to regale us, her theatergoing visitors, with a life story not nearly as sunny as her demeanor.
The only child of an Orthodox Jewish couple, young Karola escaped the Nazis at age 10 when her mother sent her from Germany to a group home in Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport program. Life there had its share of cruelty as well as young love, but Karola was spared her family’s fate: All perished in the Holocaust.
Emigrating to Palestine at 17, she began using her middle name Ruth, lived on a kibbutz, had sex for the first time and became a sniper in the Zionist paramilitary Haganah. After being severely wounded during the Israeli War of Independence, she emigrated first to Paris, then to New York, where she studied sociology and education, taught at a number of colleges and universities, then turned a 15-minute late-night radio show into a brand.
As she roams around Lyle Baskin’s attractive apartment set, which is not nearly as cluttered as Dr. Ruth says it is, O’Sullivan must do the usual juggling that a solo show requires.
You know the phone will ring repeatedly, as her narrative is interrupted by short chats with the guy she calls her “minister of communications,” with a mover who has a sexual query he’d like to discuss without the other guys around, with her concerned kids and with a stranger who seemingly has ties to Dr. Ruth’s past. As she packs photos and reminisces, larger versions of them are projected onto a screen above the apartment, so we see images of everyone from her lost family to former president Bill Clinton.
Matt Corey’s music and soundscape are vital in deepening the show’s drama and emotional palette. Jeff Quinn’s lighting helps O’Sullivan journey from present to past and back again, and Ellis Tillman’s costume makes the actor look more like the woman she’s portraying. Beth Fath’s props, from the books of an academic to a collection of turtles reflecting a precious memory, speak silently of Dr. Ruth’s life.
Understand, “Becoming Dr. Ruth” is by no stretch of the imagination a great solo show on the order of “The Belle of Amherst,” “I Am My Own Wife,” “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” or any number of other one-person plays a drama lover might cite. St. Germain’s writing and his focus on Dr. Ruth’s amiability soften some of the script’s potential impact.
Nonetheless, O’Sullivan and Adler deliver an engaging portrait of a woman who survived a shattered childhood to find joy in work, family and her bold embrace of sex as her special area of expertise.
‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ by Mark St. Germain, GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 24 (additional 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 16 and Dec. 23). Cost:$42-$60 (students $15 Thursday and Sunday evenings); 305-445-1119 or www.gablestage.org.
Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..
It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..
It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..
A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..
When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..
When Cardi B, with her trademark no-filter attitude, raps in her recent hit “Bodak Yellow” – Now I don’t got to dance/I make money move – she has something to sing about, with her smash hit N..
Despite a packed show schedule, including performing with the Frankfurt Opera in “Rinaldo,” Sarasota native, dancer and choreographer James McGinn had a chance to discuss the upcoming dance-opera ..
Anniversaries usually celebrate the success of a partnership with symbolic gifts of crystal, china, silver and gold. For the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, the company celebrates 20 years of..
The songs are familiar; the love story is also familiar but made fresh in “On Your Feet!,” the musical biography that comes to Miami this week. The narrative of Emilio and Gloria Estefan meet..
Dance lovers in Miami know that for the past two decades the International Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) has made the city in September a magnet for the brightest stars in the world of bal..
Orlando Taquechel, dance critic for two decades at the El Nuevo Herald (and now a contributor to Artburst), will have a book signing and discussion of his new book, “La danza in Miami (1998-..
The name Flamenco conjures the machine-gun snap of heels, arms arched overhead, the flick of red fabric and laser-like glares from beneath the starched black brim of a Cordobes hat. At the ed..
Watching Neri Torres rehearse is a study in focus and concentration. She demonstrates each step with an ease developed from years of immersion in the study and performance of Afro-Cuban ..
Miami-based organization Delou Africa has been the ambassador of African dance and drumming in South Florida for the last 30 years. It started as a performing company, and has since expanded..
Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling..
When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..
With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..
With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..
After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, dancing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijoo is retiring from that company to embark on a new journe..
Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick is a storyteller. Her company Alma Dance Theater brings a particularly female inner world to the stage, through lush and sensual choreography. Nick’s..
Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perf..
May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pr..
One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..
The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..
Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..
From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..
Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and..
Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..
The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..
The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..
Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..
Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..
The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..
It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..
In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..
Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..
"Nosotros sentimos, y pensamos que Jennifer y Carlos sienten igual, que Miami finalmente ha llegado a posicionarse como una verdadera ciudad cultural donde continuamente se presentan compañías imp..
El grupo de danza contemporánea Brazzdance dirigido por su fundador, el coreógrafo Augusto Soledade, se presentó el sábado 31 de marzo en el Carnival Studio Theatre del Arsht Center de Miami...
La undécima edición del Flamenco Festival que se desarrolló del jueves 8 al domingo 11 de marzo en el Arsht Center resultó ser un hermoso reencuentro con el Ballet Nacional de España (BNE), u..
Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida (ABTF) y su escuela de ballet adjunta, ambas bajo la dirección de Vladimir Issaev, se encuentran por estos días entregadas de lleno a la celebración del bicente..
El lugar privilegiado que ocupa Miami hoy en día en el mundo de la danza no tiene discusión. Además de contar con una vibrante oferta local de proyección internacional que dura todo el año y ..
Después de una serie de actuaciones muy exitosas en varias ciudades del Este del país, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) llega a Miami para ofrecer seis presentaciones del jueves 22 ..
La ofensiva espontánea protagonizada por BalletBoyz y Cie. Herve Koubi el fin de semana pasado en teatros de Fort Laudedarle y Miami, con dos propuestas artísticas absolutamente fuera de seri..
La atracción principal del tercer programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) que se presentó el fin de semana pasado en el Arsht Center fue el estreno mundial de One Line ..
Llegados en vuelo directo desde Inglaterra, BalletBoyz (Premio Nacional de Danza 2013 a la Mejor Compañía Independiente) ofrecerá el sábado 10 de febrero una función patrocinada por Culture Shock ..